There is no special arrangement for parents living in unincorporated Clearwater looking for help paying the city's nearly $200 recreation card fee to participate in Clearwater Little League, according to city officials.
“The people who have issues with the fees should really contact the county about subsidizing their fees,” said Joelle Castelli, city spokeswoman. “The county previously subsidized these fees.”
John Murphy, league president, said that because of the work to replace the fields at Sid Lickton complex, Clearwater Little League will play its games at Largo Little League and teams will practice at the Countryside Complex, which was built with help from Pinellas County.
Because of that project, Murphy said unincorporated residents could pay the resident recreation card fee of $7 to join the league this year. The rec card cost for unincorporated residents typically is $180.
But that just is not so, according to city officials.
“There is no special arrangements because of Sid Lickton being under construction,” Castelli said. “There have been arrangements made for Little League to play at other fields for this season.”
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The county used to reimburse residents for a portion of the recreation card fee, according to Paul Cozzie, the director of the county’s Parks and Conservation Resources department.
But when the county was hit by hard economic times around 2008, that service was cut, Cozzie said. More than 3,000 unincorporated Clearwater residents took advantage of the program from 2003-07.
The program reimbursed unincorporated residents the difference of the rec card fee. In Clearwater that would be more than $170 for each person at the current rec card rates.
A decrease of league players could have something to do with the end of the reimbursement program.
Murphy said the league had more than 400 players a few years ago when he become president; now there are about 200, he said.
Murphy said that while scholarships are available for players, the league still has to come up with the nearly $200 rec card fee. And with more parents out of work, the number of kids needing help to be able to play has increased from about seven to 35, Murphy said.
Two years ago, rec card costs added up to $4,800 out of league coffers.
“That is a big hit to our bottom line,” Murphy said, which will not see revenue from concession sales this season because of the ball field construction project.
Unincorporated Clearwater Recreation Reimbursement Program Participation:
- 2003- 203
- 2004- 519
- 2005- 600
- 2006- 715
- 2007- 1,058
- Total- 3,095